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Microsoft hands out tools to sneak Skype onto new PCs

'Silent installs' for victory, or at least growth

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Microsoft is eliminating the download experience from Skype for consumers by giving OEMs the tools to slip the VoIP client into PCs.

The company has released a Skype OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK) for Windows 7, which you can find here.

The OPK is designed to give PC makers the tools they need to “silently install” Skype for customers, according to the OPK site.

Officially:

Traditional OEM Preinstallation Kits (OPKs) for Windows and Office contain a wealth of technical information to address numerous scenarios; they are designed to meet the needs of the wide range of OEMs who build PCs. The OPK contains everything you need to deploy Skype 5.8, including the installer application and instructions on how to silently install Skype for your customers.

A Microsoft spokesperson said of the kit:

We aim to make it as easy to access as possible – whether you’re at home in front of your TV or computer, at work in front of your desktop, or on the go with your tablet or smartphone. We want to make it easy for millions of consumers worldwide to experience Skype.

It’s a year since Microsoft splashed a head-spinning $8.5bn for the loss-making web telco. Since then, we’ve had Skype for Windows Phone and Skype in early versions of Windows 8, expected very soon as a release candidate.

Microsoft, though, seems to be targeting Windows 7 on the OPK, possibly based on the fact that it’s an already established feature on the PC landscape.

The idea seems to be to boost the addressable market for Skype and Microsoft's follow-on plans, by eliminating the potential barrier to adoption posed by waiting for consumers to hear about Skype from friends and family, then needing them to search, download and install the software.

The user base is Skype’s single biggest attraction. Its 600 million customers were surface-analysed to death one year ago by the media as having, er, huge "potential" for Microsoft. That's all it had. So far neither Skype nor eBay have been able to discover the hidden business model that might turn this nearly 10-year-old company into a profitable web telecoms business. Twelve months after Microsoft bought Skype, concurrent users are the new "potential": 40 million. That's some potential.

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